Straying into Theater ...
A month or so back, I happened to pass by the premises where Prof. C.S Jayaram and actor Mr. Kalesh were conducting a theater workshop for a pretty large group of collegians. They roped me in as an assistant and I ended up seeing a lot of action...
"All of you just disperse in this hall, take positions apart from one another, think hard for a couple of minutes and assume the persona of ANY character you could think of and simply act out that character. No interactions among you, each one of you should simply inhabit the character you choose and just be that for the next 10 minutes. The others don't exist, each one of you should be in a world of his/her own."
Within minutes, the participants had settled into their respective self-chosen roles - one became visually challenged, another a beggar, a newspaper vendor, a prof, a toddler, whatever - and they seemed to melt into their roles, oblivious of what others were up to. Then, Jayaram Sir told me to simply walk among them, silently. I did so and within a minute, I could feel myself become a visitor to an art gallery or an installation. One began to gaze at each character with intensity and intent, subjecting each to the kind of scrutiny that would be strictly out of bounds in normal society....
I noticed with some surprise that two of the students had chosen to be hookers. One stood, leaning on to a wall pretty much like a classical salabhanjika. The other paced up and down teasingly, fetchingly. As I walked past the latter, our eyes met and... she gave me the eye.
A short play was staged to mark the conclusion of the workshop. I was asked to make a shock appearance as a hunter, whose behavior and antics were modeled on Batman's Joker(*). His appearance was a curious mix of hawk-nosed Mephistopheles and the filthy-bearded Kaattaalan of Keralan classic Nalacharitam (someone else thought it was Veerappan squeezed into Shikari Shambhu)
Whatever, the character reminded me of the phrase coined by Comte de Lautremont (Isidore-Lucien Ducasse) and which I first heard from Jayaram Sir himself: "the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!"
Artist Nambuthiri was recently honored at a function held in Tripunithura. A documentary film on him by Shaji Karun was also screened. Though interestingly titled ('Ner(u) Vara', which could mean 'straight line'or 'lines of truth') and incorporating a poignant meditation on a stone Nandi sculpture at Mahabalipuram, the doc was not quite up to the usual Shaji class. Anyways, at the end of it all, as the crowd melted away, the veteran artist paused for a moment to contemplate the vacant hall - and I shot him:
Thanks to Malini, I have just come to know about the so-called Master of Hakendover and his wooden sculpture, "The Repentance of St. Peter":
The Rijksmuseum description of this work, executed around 1400, mentions its distinctly modern appearance, especially the striking composition with diagonal planes and converging cubes (Braque?). But one can also see herein a throbbing mix of drama and trauma that harks back to the famous marble group Laocoon (carved around the time of Christ). It is a matter of detail that Laocoon was not dug up until the 16th century and Hakendover might not have known of it. Whatever, I don't recall ever seeing a work quite like this.
Let me close this post with another picture that marks the ongoing dalliance with theater:
(*) for example, as he snares a peacock, the hunter would sing raucously:
"Vaayo Mayilannaa! Thaayo.... Mayilennaa!!"
(hard to translate but approximately, "Come away, dear bro Peacock, be generous to me ..... with your rich Oil!")
The hunter about to wring oil out of his putative brother, the peacock, is actually in pretty good company. For example, in a TV ad for some spice/masala, veteran actor Mamukkoya tells a bemused-looking rooster with great warmth: "Anne njammalu fry aakkaan puggaa. Anakku beshmonnoollaalo?!" (translation: "We gonna fry you nicely; you fine with it, right?". In a more literary instance, Old Santiago tells the marlin pulling him deeper into the sea (I am retranslating a Mal translation): "You are like my brother, noble fish, and I got plenty respect and love for you. And by sundown, I am gonna fix you for good!".
Come to think of it, killing has, at a very primal level, a fratricidal element. The primordial murder was brother killing brother whether it is Cain vs. Abel or Indra vs. Vritra. And the same theme reaches its highest pitch in the Arjuna - Karna showdown. Fraternal love and murderous rage appear poles of a horseshoe magnet... indeed, they are closer, maybe even the same thing.